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Tooth Extraction Recovery Tips

Having a tooth extracted can be a painful experience while it is healing. However, there are a number of things you can do following the extraction procedure that will help to make the process as easy as possible. With proper care, your gums and jaw can be fully functional again after several days.

What to Avoid

Food and drinks. Follow the advice given by your dentist, but generally avoid food and drink at least until the anaesthetic wears off. You won't be able to feel anything in the numbed area in the hours following the procedure. This makes it possible to burn or scald your mouth with hot food or drink, or unknowingly bite your own tongue. Carbonated or hot drinks should also be avoided for the next 3-4 days.  A soft food diet is also encouraged for 1 to 2 days following the procedure.

Smokers should avoid lighting up for a minimum of two days after the procedure, as smoking interferes with the healing process. Chemicals within cigarette smoke can delay proper healing of the extraction site, leading to a very uncomfortable complication called a dry socket.

Alcohol is known to significantly delay the healing process, and so should be avoided for 24 hours after the procedure.

Don't rinse the area for the first 6 hours following the extraction. You must be careful not to damage the blood clot by eating on that side or letting your tongue disturb it. This can also inhibit healing of the socket.

Salt water mouth rinses should be commenced 6 hours following the procedure.  One teaspoon of salt stirred into a 250ml glass of warm water should gently be allowed to flow over the extraction site to help prevent infection and aid in healing

To Minimise Bleeding

Following the extraction, your dentist will immediately apply a gauze pad for you to bite on. Bite down gently to hold this gauze pad firmly in place for about an hour. Do not disturb a clot once it forms. Some small amount of residual bleeding (pink saliva) is to be expected, however if there is obvious blood flow from the socket, apply a new wet gauze pack with plenty of pressure for 15-20 minutes to reestablish a blood clot.

Avoid excessive exercise following the procedure for the rest of the day.  Any heavy lifting and/or exercise will promote blood flow which can make the extraction area bleed.  It is preferable to rest and allow your body time to heal.  As this may require time off work, please do not hesitate to ask your dentist for a medical release form.

To Minimise Pain and Swelling

To ward off pain, your dentist will likely recommend pain medication. If medication has been prescribed, read carefully all the instructions and warnings and follow them to the letter.  You will likely be advised to take the first dose of painkillers immediately following the extraction, before the numbness has worn off. If antibiotics have been prescribed, take them exactly as directed, even if infection symptoms appear to have gone.

You may experience some swelling after the extraction. Apply an ice pack to the area of your jaw for 20 minutes at a time, with 10 minute breaks, for the first 24 hours. After 48 hours, you can apply a warm compress to promote healing and circulation in the extraction area. Swelling will typically subside after 48 hours.

Use an extra pillow to keep your head elevated when sleeping for the first night - this will help to minimise future swelling.

A "Dry Socket" following an extraction is unfortunately a problem that arises in about 5% of all cases.  This occurs if the blood clot that seals the extraction site gets washed away and is not replaced.  As a result the bone and nerves are exposed to air and anything else that may be in the mouth, thus causing severe pain and sometimes a foul odour.  A dry socket usually presents itself 2 to 3 days following the procedure and normally clears up in about 5 to 7 days (quicker with treatment).

If you experience any of the following: your pain becomes more severe the day after your extraction, there is heavy bleeding and it's difficult to control, the swelling around the extraction site worsens, or itching or rashes occur after you take medication, contact the friendly team at Plainland Dental for an appointment immediately, and we will look after you as best we can.